When it comes to the Limited Late Model division at Sunset Speedway this year, it seems that nobody has been left out of being caught having a bad night as it’s been finish well and get the checkers or wreck. With four features completed, that equals 120 laps. In those 120 laps, there have been 21 cautions, averaging a caution every five to six laps each night. You can only imagine the twists and turns that can bring.
Story of Speed: Kevin Cornelius, Mike Bentley and Tom Walters
The first month showcased three drivers who have strong cars, who will be in contention for the championship all year long – Defending Series Champion Kevin Cornelius, 2011 Gary Reynolds Memorial winner Mike Bentley and 28-time Late Model Champion Tom Walters. They have involved in the ups and downs throughout the month in some of the most discussed races.
On opening night, the fireworks started right away with a lap 17 incident involving Bentley and Gary Elliott. Elliott had a mechanical failure, causing him to spin. Bentley had no way and crashed right into Elliott, destroying his car. The result was Bentley purchasing a new car from McColl Racing Enterprises. The chassis that Bentley purchased was the car that Walters drove to a second place finish in points last year.
Cornelius would go on to win the race and start his season on a good note. He started the 2011 season the same way, winning the first two features of the year. Walters, debuting his brand new chassis for 2012, finished second, followed by Sean Cronan, Taylor Holdaway and Jason Witty.
On May 12th, the fireworks continued as the winner wasn’t officially declared till the Tuesday night after the race. Following a late race caution for Walters spinning himself out, Morrow and Bentley ran side-by-side for the lead for three laps. Coming off of turn four heading to the checkered, contact between the two would put Morrow into the outside frontstretch wall. Cornelius would get right front damage as he caught the back corner of Morrow while trying to around the accident. Bentley, meanwhile, would cross the line first ahead of Tiemersma and Holdaway.
Originally due to the caution coming out as the drivers crossed the line, both Morrow and Bentley were taken out as involved cars, giving the win to Cornelius. However after further review, Cornelius was also taken out as an involved car. This, therefore, handed the race win to Tony Tiemersma. So Tiemersma, who is running a part-time schedule for 2012, would score his first win for 2012. Holdaway got second, followed by Cronan, Billy Zardo and Dario Capirchio. Morrow was scored 11th with Bentley 12th and Cornelius 13th. Morrow, a seven-time Late Model Champion, would miss the third week of racing due to the amount of repairs needed to the car.
The third night of racing on May 19th would run mostly clean, with just three cautions for cars spinning around. After having bad luck the first two nights, Bentley got to victory lane for his first ever Late Model victory at Sunset Speedway. Cornelius would finish second to Bentley, followed by Witty, Cronan and Walters.
On May 26th, it’d be another interesting night of racing with a late race black flag having mixed reactions from people. Mike Bentley would take the lead early in the race on lap two after an incident involving Ernie Fumerton, Elliott and Keith Maiato. However, Bentley would have to make a pit stop under the second caution on lap five for a flat tire, handing the lead over to Morrow. Morrow would lead the race up until lap 17, when he would be passed by Cornelius for the lead. Meanwhile, Bentley made his way back up to second after his early flat tire.
Cornelius and Bentley battled all the way till a late-race caution on lap 28 for Thane Woodside spinning. Under that caution, Bentley was given the black flag due to the right side fender flapping in the breeze due to the contact from earlier with the flat tire. This moved Walters up to second, where Cornelius and Walters battled side-by-side the final two laps with Cornelius scoring the victory. Walters would finish second, followed by Morrow, Sean Cronan and Tony Tiemersma. Meanwhile, Bentley was scored 13th.
As a result of the first month craziness, Cornelius now leads Walters by five points while Bentley sits seventh in points, 63 points behind Cornelius.
Walters is the only one of the three not to have found feature victory lane yet on a regular night, however he won round one of the McColl Shootout Series last Sunday, racing a Limited Late Model against the Open Late Model drivers.
Story of Consistancy: Taylor Holdaway and Sean Cronan
While Cornelius, Bentley and Walters have taken up the headlines, Taylor Holdaway and Sean Cronan have found the secret to success is consistency.
For Cronan, he has finished third, third, fourth and fourth in the first four nights. As a result, he sits third in points, 20 points behind Cornelius.
Meanwhile, Holdaway has a worst finish of 11th this season, which came on May 19th due to the handling being off. Besides that, he has finished fourth, second and sixth while winning a pair of heats. He currently sits fourth in points, 36 points out of the lead. Holdaway hasn’t escaped trouble though as he ran round one of the McColl Pro Series last weekend with Walters and was involved in a wreck with Dwayne Baker.
Story of turning it Around: Jason Witty & Billy Zardo
After having a season full of mixed results last year, Jason Witty has rebounded back nicely early this season as he finished fifth, sixth and third in the first three nights. However, due to mechanical problems on May 26th, he finished 16th in the feature. He currently sits fifth in points, 56 points out of the lead.
Third generation driver Billy Zardo is also having a better season so far this year than last year. Coming into his second season driving a Limited Late Model, Zardo has finished in the top 10 each night this year, including a fourth place finish on the second night. He currently sits sixth in points.
Story of Bad Luck: Chris Morrow and Scott Beatty
As previously mentioned, Chris Morrow has suffered some bad luck early this season that has taken him out of championship contention. With the wreck that happened on the second night of racing, he missed the third night as the team was still working on getting the car repaired. To add insult to misery, the first night he only ran seven laps in the feature due to mechanical problems with the car. However when he returned on the fourth night, he did score a third place finish. Look for Morrow to contend for feature victories throughout the month of June.
Another driver who suffered bad luck in May is Scott Beatty. During the off-season, Beatty purchased a brand new McColl chassis. In pre-season testing, he looked to be an early season favourite with the lap times he was laying down. However, a wreck on the second night would damage the front end of his car heavily. He has yet to return to Sunset since.
Entering the month of June, it promises to equal the same amount of action as everybody is still hungry for feature wins and championship points. Make sure to come out to the track as you won’t want to miss the action.